T.N. counters argument that animals, like persons, are protected by Constitution

The Tamil Nadu government on Thursday argued before the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court hearing the Jallikattu case that a duty to ensure the well-being of an animal does not give a concomitant right to the animal to demand well-being.

“Rights are given by law made by human beings. Rights are of two kinds — against the State or fellow human beings and against nature. There is no concept of rights of animals… There is only the concept of making sure that in the course of relationships with animals, we follow certain moral norms… and the underlining moral norm is not to cause any pain or suffering,” senior advocate Kapil Sibal, for Tamil Nadu, submitted before the five-judge Bench led by Justice K.M. Joseph.

The State was countering arguments by petitioners that animals, like persons, were protected under the Constitution. Jallikattu caused unnecessary pain and suffering to the bulls. They had sought the striking down of the Tamil Nadu law, which had revived Jallikattu after a Supreme Court ban on the bull-taming sport in 2014.

Mr. Sibal said the Prevention of Cruelty Act provides against the infliction of “unnecessary pain and suffering” on animals.

He said two kinds of animals were considered in the Act, those which were wild and others which were domesticated like the bulls.

“But the act of domesticating an animal itself causes pain and suffering. The animal suffers. So the Act accepts, even presumes, that there is an existence of cruelty in the process of domestication,” Mr. Sibal explained.

He questioned the very concept of cruelty to domesticated animals. “There are some animals which do not see the light of the day, except when they are placed on our table,” he said. Mr. Sibal wondered what would constitute causing “unnecessary pain” to a domesticated animal.

Besides, he reminded that the Jallikattu case also touches on the rights of private individuals who own the animals used in the events.

He said the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Tamil Nadu Amendment) Act of 2017 and Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Conduct of Jallikattu) Rules of 2017 laid down procedures to protect the bulls from brutality. Violation of these rules would attract penal action. The procedures had to be supervised by the District Collector.